Tributes as king of horror dies

Scream 2 star Sarah Michelle Gellar has led tributes to Nightmare on Elm Street director Wes Craven, who has died aged 76.

Tributes as king of horror dies

Gellar joined a host of stars praising Craven, one of the most famous names in the horror film genre.

Craven’s family said in a statement that he died at his Los Angeles home after battling brain cancer.

“I had the great privilege of working with Wes Craven, one of the kindest most gentle souls, who made great scary films. RIP Wes Craven,” said Gellar.

His Nightmare on Elm Street movies, featuring one of horror’s most iconic characters Freddy Krueger, propelled him to fame.

The first, released in 1984, starred a then unknown Johnny Depp.

In 1996, he released Scream, starring Friends actress Courteney Cox, Drew Barrymore, Neve Campbell, and David Arquette.

The movie went on to have several sequels and is cited as having reinvented the teen horror genre.

Cox paid tribute on social media, writing: “Today the world lost a great man, my friend and mentor, Wes Craven. My heart goes out to his family.”

Bridesmaids director Paul Feig wrote: “RIP Wes Craven. You were one of a kind. Thanks for all the years of scares and fun.”

Jamie Kennedy, who appeared in Scream 2, said he would have had “no career if it were not for Wes Craven”.

Craven also directed the 1999 drama Music of the Heart, which earned Meryl Streep an Oscar nomination. Streep’s co-star in the film, Angela Bassett, said: “He was a kind and generous soul as well as possessing a wicked sense of humour. I feel blessed to have worked with him. He always invited me to the table, and for that I am grateful.”

He was married to producer Iya Labunka, and is survived by her, a son, a daughter and stepdaughter.

Craven helped invent the teen horror genre with 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The movie and its indelible, razor-fingered villain Freddy Krueger, played by Robert Englund, led to several sequels, as did Scream.

“He was a consummate filmmaker and his body of work will live on forever,” said Weinstein Co co-chairman Bob Weinstein, whose Dimension Films produced Scream.

“My brother [Harvey Weinstein] and I are eternally grateful for all his collaborations with us.”

“Horror films don’t create fear,” Craven said. “They release it.”

Wesley Earl Craven was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 2, 1939, to a strictly Baptist family.

He earned a master’s degree in philosophy and writing from John Hopkins University and briefly taught as a college professor in Pennsylvania and New York.

His start in movies was in pornography, where he worked under pseudonyms.

His feature debut under his own name was 1972’s The Last House on the Left, inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, about teenage girls abducted and taken into the woods.

Made for just $87,000, the film, though graphic enough to be censored in many countries, was a hit. Roger Ebert said it was “about four times as good as you’d expect”.

Nightmare on Elm Street, however, catapulted him to far greater renown.

The Ohio-set film about teenagers who are stalked in their dreams, which Craven wrote and directed, spawned a never-ending franchise that has carried on until, most recently, a 2010 remake.

The concept, Craven said, came from his own youth in Cleveland, specifically an Elm Street cemetery and a homeless man that inspired Krueger’s raged look.

Along with John Carpenter’s Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street defined a horror trope where helpless teenagers are preyed upon by knife-wielding, deformed killers in cruel morality tales; usually promiscuous girls were the first to die.

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